by Les Kroeker
I came back from Mexico more convinced than ever that God is real, powerful, and working in the lives of people everywhere. It was spring break mission trip (March 24 to April 2) to the City of Juarez in Chihuahua state.
One of the most powerful moments for me was during Sunday morning worship at Nuevo Pacto, an EMC mission church plant, our first day there. I’d been looking forward to worshipping there. It’s a church into which my parents, Jake and Bertha Kroeker, invested many years; it was my home church through my high school years. But that was in the late 70s—almost 40 years ago. I only recognized a few older people.
The worship started with powerful celebration, loud enough for the neighbourhood to participate in even without coming to church. The band was great. The worship leader did a lot of good teaching and application between songs. But the most powerful thing for me was a deep connection with these people as we worshipped the same almighty God.
I found myself getting emotional. How do you explain that kind of love and unity among strangers from such different cultures? A few tears managed to sneak out and make their way down my cheeks. I tried to stop it at that, but just then they slowed the worship right down, reflecting on God’s love and how unworthy we are to receive it.
Now I really started crying, overwhelmed by the love and presence of God there and by the love and unity I felt with those Mexicans. I sat with my head in my hands and cried. The man next to me sat down and put his head on the chair in front of him. The man in front of me was wiping away tears.
What a blessing to experience the continuing fruit of my parents’ lives in this vibrant and healthy church. What a privilege to be invited up by the young preacher to interpret into English his message on the true Gospel—that Jesus did not come to make our lives easy by taking away all our poverty, suffering, and sickness. He came primarily to take care of our sin problem and only he was qualified to do so.
After the service I couldn’t get away because I was getting so much love and attention from people who wanted me to know the impact my dear parents had had on them. It was well into the afternoon before we finally made it to the market place for lunch: chile rellenos and Coca-Cola while serenaded by mariachis sitting out in the patio under the warm Mexican sun.
How do you explain such love and unity with complete strangers across culture and race if not for Jesus? God is real and powerful and working in the lives of people everywhere.
How do you explain the love and unity with our mission trip team members, so different in so many ways?
Seven individuals, four households
Four grown men; three children; one lone girl
Ages 11 to 60-plus
Most hardly knew each other; some had never even met
Squeezed into a minivan (including luggage)
2,700 kms one way; 27 hours; two 14-hour days with one short stop for sleep
Shared sleeping space with guys who snored or coughed and coughed
One insistent on eating only authentic Mexican food But we got there and back, got a house straightened out (14 inches out of level in a span of 14 feet), and a new roof put on. It’s just not natural for a group like this to get along so well and work so well together, is it? How often do you see examples of that outside of the Church? It does happen occasionally, but it’s not the norm like it is among followers of Jesus. Love and unity in a common mission because of a common love for Jesus Christ. God is real and powerful and working in the lives of people everywhere.
“I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me” (John 17:23, NLT).
Les Kroeker is the associate pastor at Portage Evangelical Church. He is the son of Jake and Bertha Kroeker, who served as EMC missionaries in Mexico from 1958-1998.